Congress Heights Residents Bring Fight Against Slumlord to Cleveland Park

Developer Geoff Griffis wants to turn a rent-controlled Congress Heights apartment complex that he bought from Sanford Capitol into high-end, luxury condominiums.  Before he can do it, he has to force all the current residents out.  They will not leave without a fight.  Residents like Robert T. Greene, who participated in a march to the home of Geoff Griffis on Saturday February 10, is the featured in the video below.

Robert and the other tenants have formed the Alabama Avenue/13th Street Tenant Coalition.  The organization intends to buy the property themselves under the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).   With the help of nonprofit housing developer National Housing Trust, they would turn the complex into 200 affordable apartments.  But Geoff Griffis is doing his best to make sure they can’t buy the property.

ONE DC explains the case and asks that you join them and other anti-displacement activists like Justice First and KeepDC4Me.  Show up and …

Help the Alabama Ave./13th Street Tenants Association
Secure the Right to Buy Their Building

Friday, February 16, 2018
DC Superior Court
500 Indiana Avenue NW
Room 518
Noon – 3:00 PM

What You Don’t Know About the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017

The Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017 is currently under DC Council review.  After mulling over the latest amendments they will vote on it again December 5, 2017.  Before that happens, we’d like Grassroots DC readers to have some basic information about this bill so we’ve cross-posted the following from the Fair Budget Coalition, which describes what happened during the debate of proposed changes to the bill on November 7, 2017.

D.C. Seeks to Improve Its Comprehensive Plan

Cross-Posted from Street Sense
by Ashley Clarke

The D.C. Office of Planning is amending the Comprehensive Plan, a long-standing document that outlines priorities for D.C.’s future growth and change. In a statement from the Office of Planning, Director Eric Shaw encouraged residents to read the Comprehensive Plan and make suggestions for changes.

“‘Planning an Inclusive City’ is the guiding vision for the DC Comprehensive Plan. An inclusive city is one where every member of the community feels welcome wherever they are in the city, and where everyone has a fair and equitable opportunity to live a healthy, successful and fulfilling life,” Edward Geifer, associate director of the Office of Planning, wrote in an email to Street Sense.

A heterogeneous coalition was born out of the Office of Planning’s call to the public.  Community organizations, for-profit and nonprofit developers, faith groups, tenant advocates and other local organizations have formed a loose coalition of interested parties to identify priorities for creating more affordable housing and community support for under-resourced communities in D.C.  The coalition met over several months to reach an agreement on a series of priorities that are listed on their website at www.DCHousingpriorities.org.Comprehensive-Plan-Timeline-717x422

According to the 2016 annual census done by the D.C. Council on Homelessness,  8,350 people experience homelessness on any given night in the city.  Coalition members want to see growth in the city but also want the Office of Planning to know that growth does not mean pushing marginalized people further to the margins.

“It is possible to build new housing, including a good measure of affordable housing, and grow the District’s tax base in a way that makes business sense and advances the public good. The result can be a combination of new housing and amenities for residents and increased revenue for the city so it can continue to enhance quality of life,” said Aakash Thakkar in the a news release. Thakkar is the senior vice president of EYA, a real estate development firm that is part of the coalition.

Coalition  members believe that more affordable housing and targeted support for D.C. communities should be in the Comprehensive Plan.  Philip Stump-Kennedy told Street Sense that Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) joined the coalition in hopes of using the Office of Planning as a tool for their mission. Stump-Kennedy is the regional tenant organizing manager at LEDC. He said he is tasked with the preservation of affordable housing in D.C, which is one of the priorities the coalition wants addressed. He referred to the lack of affordable housing in D.C. and said it is important that subsidized housing like Section 8 housing is maintained in the District.

Stump-Kennedy also believes rent control is an important part of affordable housing preservation. The rest of the coalition agrees and lists the protection of tenants as a priority. Stump-Kennedy said that the LEDC focuses on organizing tenants, connecting them with attorneys and other tenant associations. Stump-Kennedy said there is strength in numbers and organization.

“We need policies that preserve the affordable housing we already have as the District develops. It’s clear the city needs more units to meet the demand of the people coming here, but we also need strategies to protect tenants who are struggling to stay in the city. Those goals don’t have to be in conflict,” said Rob Wohl, a tenant organizer for the LEDC, in a news release.

The coalition members believe that the development of affordable housing and equitable economics requires the participation of all D.C. communities in order to move toward a solution. A full list of organizations and businesses in support of the D.C. housing priorities can be found on their webpage.

Residents can get involved by signing up for updates at plandc.dc.gov and submitting proposed amendments during the open call period for amendments.

Proposed Bill to Fund DC Public Housing Repairs Raises Concerns

The fight to increase the amount of affordable housing in the District of Columbia should also include efforts to maintain the city’s public housing. It was a need for clean, safe and affordable housing that prompted the creation of public housing in the 1930s. That need still exists today but our willingness to fund it has been on the decline since the 1960s. Today, the Public Housing Operating Fund—the main source of revenue for public housing maintenance and repairs–pays for only 86% of the items in HUD’s budget.

It looks as though the D.C. City Council may at long last be trying to make up the difference with the Public Housing Rehabilitation Amendment Act of 2016.  The problem that those who advocate on behalf of public housing have with the bill is that it won’t pay for maintenance if the housing is slated for redevelopment. So if you live in Barry Farm, Kenilworth Courts, Park Morton, Highland Dwellings or Lincoln Heights–all properties scheduled for eventual redevelopment–you’re out of luck.

The article below provides more details.

New Legislation Welcomed by Public Housing Advocates

Cross-posted from Street Sense
Written By Reginald Black

ReginaldBlack1-750x422Members of the Empower DC housing campaign and residents of public housing took a walk around the Wilson Building weeks before the first FY2017 budget vote to meet with council members and discuss their budget priorities. The residents have been calling for desperately needed repairs to both occupied and unoccupied units of public housing managed by the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA). The residents have been requesting work orders for more than six years, some properties haven’t been properly maintained since the 1980s.

In March, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman and Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Charles Allen (Ward 6) and Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced a bill that would provide funds for maintenance of existing public housing units. It is a great move by council, but public housing residents still had some concerns regard language within the bill.

One of the first stops on the list was Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May’s office. The councilwoman was not in at the time, but the group met with Councilwoman May’s staff. Their main concern stems from a line in the bill that states the repair funds allocated could not be used for properties up for demolition. “We wanted to address line 46,” said Detrice Bel, leader of the Barry Farm Tenant and Allies Association. “Residents have an issue with that.”

“I live in a development on Capitol Hill that is supposed to be upkept, but it’s not,” said public housing resident Robert Lee. He asked if May’s office could seek changes to the language of the bill that would force maintenance people do their job. “We need more accountability when it comes to public housing. It’s like everybody’s looking for a paycheck.”

Lee also described his days as a maintenance worker. “In the morning, we clean up the activity from the night before,” he said. “But after that, when is the work going to get done in the places?”

May’s legislative director, Michael Austin said their office is open to all ideas. “We’re always trying to find what we can do to preserve homes, that includes public housing.”

To Lee, there is no observable sense of urgency on these issues. “These are people’s lives we’re talking about,” he said. “These are the same arguments we present you all the time.” The bill has not moved forward since a notice of intent to act on it was published in the District of Columbia register on March 18.

Rallying for Housing for D.C.’s Homeless

Cross-Posted from WTOP
Written by Allison Keyes

WASHINGTON — There was standing-room only at Foundry United Methodist Church in D.C. on Saturday morning, where hundreds turned out for the Fulfill the Promise rally. Organizers are hoping to ensure affordable housing, end chronic homelessness, and make sure all who need help finding a place to live have somewhere to turn.

“There shouldn’t be … homelessness anywhere in the United States,” says Thomas Hood. He lived on the street for 13 years, but has housing now, through the nonprofit Community Connections. “I’ve got an apartment, washer, dryer and everything. I just have to come out to get food.”

The rally, sponsored by The Way Home Campaign and the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development’s Housing for All Campaign, included a call for District leaders to increase investments in affordable housing and strategies to end homelessness.

“We know that ending chronic homelessness is possible,” says Emily Buzzell of Miriam’s Kitchen. “D.C. has developed the Homeward DC plan to end chronic homelessness by 2017, but we are not on track to meet this goal.”

Among other things, organizers want to see the Home Purchase Assistance Program expanded, an increase in the Local Rent Supplement Program, and reforms in rent stabilization. They also want the District to commit at least $100 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund to build new housing and ensure the opportunity for tenants to preserve affordable housing.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, who spoke at the event, says the money is there.

“We’ve already committed to 100 million in affordable housing each and every year,” Bowser told reporters. “We were able to accomplish it last year and we’ll do it again this year.”

Patricia Samuels, who is homeless, barely sees her 15-year-old son because she has no place for them to live together. She says instead of spending money on things like the D.C. streetcar, the District should be putting up more subsidized housing.

“I think that would really help,” Samuels says.